With a 622-pound squat, 396-pound bench and 633-pound deadlift, Mark Rippetoe wasn’t the strongest lifter in his day. That said, his knowledge has resonated with athletes for nearly 40 years. A strength coach and author of "Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training" Rippetoe believes that a barbell is the only tool you need to improve sports performance, pack on muscle, and get super strong. Check out what “Rip” has to say about “functional fitness,” and how to become a stronger, more advanced lifter.
Muscle & Fitness: What defines a novice, intermediate and advanced lifter?
Mark Rippetoe: Somebody that’s really strong can’t get much stronger easily but somebody who’s never trained before can get stronger quickly. A novice hasn’t progressed very far towards their physical potential and can recover from the stress of one workout in 48-72 hours. By recover, I mean the body adapts to a specific overload event (the workout) in order to be able to lift more weight in the future. You’re only a novice for about 6-8 months then you’re intermediate. Strong and adapted to stress, now it takes heavier weight and more volume to overload, and recovery from heavier weights and more volume takes 5-7 days. An advanced athlete will likely be a competitive weightlifter and it may take a month or more to accumulate and recover from the stress of an overload.
How many exercises should the intermediate lifter be doing per workout?
People trying to be strong need to use eight exercises their entire career. We select exercises based on their ability to use the most muscle mass over the greatest effective range of motion. We don’t balance on Bosu balls with one foot behind us and one in front with 10-pound dumbbells in our hands because that doesn’t cause adaptation to occur. It’s not hard enough.
What is the best way to get conditioned while trying to build strength?
Although a novice gets in better condition by getting stronger, there’s a role for conditioning in the post novice athlete. The Prowler is the most useful conditioning cool because it doesn’t have an eccentric component and therefore doesn’t cause inflammatory soreness response.
Is there a role for direct ab work for core strength?
Weighted situps can be a productive exercise for somebody who has never hurt their back. If you tweak your back, avoid situps and back extensions forever. Conventional wisdom is that by doing situps and back extensions we strengthen our core, but I would ask you to reflect upon situps and back extensions versus a 500-pound deadlift for the strength of muscles that keep the spine still.
What role does sports specific training for a competitive athlete?
There should be no attempt made to make strength training look like your sport because that waters down the effectiveness of the exercise you’re trying to do to obtain strength. There is no such thing as sports-specific strength training. The most efficient way to acquire strength is the way you acquire strength. Then, practice on the field with the movement patterns in which you use the strength as applies it to the sport.
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